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Will riders really boycott Harley-Davidson?

Will riders really boycott Harley-Davidson? Trump intimacy
Bikers for Trump

Speculation of a boycott of Harley-Davidson over plans to shift some production overseas are blown out of proportion, yet it hasn’t stopped President Trump from tweeting about it or US media from lapping it up.

Poor old Harley has become the whipping boy in the ongoing trade war negotiations and has battened down the hatches, making no comment. The company is finding it increasingly difficult to remain “apolitical” as CEO Matt Levatich said last month.

The latest salvo in the trade wars came at the weekend when the New York Times reported the alleged planned boycott.

Hardly a widespread boycottWill riders really boycott Harley-Davidson? Trump

Journalist Alan Rappeport attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and quoted three riders who said they disagreed with Harley moving some of its production overseas to supply foreign markets with bikes to avoid hefty European tariffs brought on by Trump’s ongoing trade war.

That’s just three riders.

One Harley owner, aged 67, said it would be his last. Well, it may be his last bike, anyway.

Another said he believed the company was planning to move the bulk of its production offshore and that Americans would be forced to buy an overseas product.

That’s actually incorrect. Harley said they would continue to make bikes in America for the domestic market.

It also ignores the fact that there are already factories in India and Brazil that make bikes for those markets.

For the past three years Australians and many other countries have been buying Indian-made Street models. The Street 500 has consistently been one of the top 10 motorcycles in Australia and for a while the company’s most popular bike.

A Thai factory that has been built over the past couple of years — well before the trade war started. It is about to start production for overseas markets.

The third rider the New York Times journalist spoke to rides Japanese bikes and no longer aspires to riding a Harley.

That’s hardly amounts to a boycott.

Yet Trump and the US media have picked it up and run with it.

Trump tweeted:

Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great! Most other companies are coming in our direction, including Harley competitors. A really bad move! U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better.

Trump’s tweet followed a weekend meeting with “Bikers for Trump” supporters at his posh golf club in New Jersey where the supporters urged a Harley boycott.Will riders really boycott Harley-Davidson? Trump

Trump loves these guys. Earlier this year Trump tweeted:

I guarantee you everybody that ever bought a Harley-Davidson voted for Trump. I don’t know if you know that. I would have to — they call them bikers for Trump. There’s hundreds.

There may be a few hundred fanatical Bikers for Trump members, but Harley sold almost 150,000 bikes in the US last year.


Interestingly, the New York Times also reports that the founder of “Bikers for Trump” sells pro-Trump T-shirts made in Haiti because American-made products cost $8 more.

Will riders really boycott Harley-Davidson? Trump

He’s not the only hypocrite.

The New York Times reports that the White House has used Chinese-made silverware, and that many campaign materials for the president’s 2020 bid are being manufactured elsewhere. 

The White House denied a report that “Keep America Great” flags for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign were being produced in China, despite photos from inside the factory.

Also a wide variety of products sold under the Trump name are made overseas, including China, the Netherlands, Mexico, India, Turkey, Slovenia, Honduras, Germany, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea.

Many of these products are labelled as “Made in America”.


The trade war saga is a long one that really goes back to when Harley executives met Trump on the White House lawns in February 2017 right after his inauguration.

They complained about India’s hefty tariffs on their bikes.

Harley-Davidson execs meet President Trump copycat cow debate waiving tariffs electric production berlin boycott
Trump meets with Harley execs

Trump incorrectly cited the tariffs to support his attack on world trade, saying the US has been disadvantaged.

This year the trade war escalated when Trump increased steel and aluminium tariffs. Europe and China responded with higher tariffs on US goods.

At the forefront in all this tit-for-tat “negotiation” has been Harley-Davidson.

They have not only been hit with higher prices for their steel and aluminium, but also face higher tariffs in Europe and China.

In response, they made the rational business decision to keep a lid on their international prices by manufacturing some of their bikes overseas. 

There may be concern among owners about the quality of Harleys being jeopardised by overseas production.

But it doesn’t seem to have stopped many other motorcycle companies from doing exactly the same thing.

I’m heading to Harley’s 115th birthday bash in Milwaukee this month to ride the 2019 models.

I’ll talk to a few more than three riders, gauge the sentiment and see how many actually understand what is going on.

  1. Harley was the one who pushed its patriotism with its ‘by the people for the people ‘ campaign And has been bailed out in the past by the us government by higher tariffs on foreign imports. So it could well lose quite some market share from some riders.The main question is Has harley diversified its product enough for younger riders? Ones who dont care about the origins of what they ride? They are throwing their hat in the ring with a lot of asian
    manufacturers. And if they run into problems will the us government be willing to bail them out again?..It is quite possible trump may serve a second term He may even increase tarrifs on harley parts manufactured overseas, it is quite within his power to make life very uncomfortable for the company.Look at what he just did to turkey

      1. posturing and threats of trade wars happen all the time. There is a lot involved
        here including currency manipulation and the strategic co-dependency of the us and
        its nato allies. But trumps voters have come from the so called rust belt and expect him to
        act on promises of punishing those companies that go offshore. Harley is an iconic brand
        so the reaction of trump is not unexpected. But has harley used the tariffs as an excuse
        to do something they had already planned?..Banking on a one term president and then blaming him for them having to go off shore? harley is just another multinational the same as bhp and other australian companies that have gone offshore here .The real losers are the american workers

  2. Trumps puppets are basking in their 5 seconds of glory yet wouldn’t be seen dead on anything but a Harley. Let’s hope the new bikes are better than previous (V-Rod excluded) and the company can shake off the pirates once and for all.

  3. “They complained about India’s hefty tariffs on their bikes.” They did not. They already had a assembly plant in India for that reason. Trump just wanted to use them as an example to impose tariffs on other countries.

  4. Has anyone asked potential buyers in Europe and Asia what _they_ think about all this? Do they care?

  5. Although I support Trump overall, I agree with everything written in this article. Trump can be caustic at times and he should never be promoting boycotting an American company. However, on a broader topic, I have heard some consternation on the part of Harley Davidson’s core customers about Harley Davidson diversifying their product line . This is unfounded , there is no reason why Harley Davidson can’t continue it’s cruiser and touring bike platform and expand its products, it doesn’t have to be an either or situation. What prompted Harley Davidson’s change in strategy is that sales in the U.S. have continued to decline. If anything, it’s reasonable to think Harley Davidson’s customers have abandoned them. Like any other company, the goal is to increase stability, growth , and profits. If successful, this is precisely what it do for Harley Davidson. In order for Harley Davidson to remain viable, they must compete and win. We can’t live in a time capsule. You either adapt or cease to exist and this would be a terrible loss if this happened.

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